Further Thoughts on Postponing the Apocalypse

There’s a risk that I’m going to piss people off by what I say here; even a risk that I might lose friends over it. I hope not; I think generally I have pretty smart, wise, tolerant people as friends.  But I’ve seen other friendships die this election season, and…you know what? After thinking about it all day, I think I have to say it anyway.

Just do me a favor and if you get annoyed in the beginning, at least hear me out – okay? I might not be saying what you assume I am.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments, pretty much everywhere, that Mike Pence is a bigger threat than Trump. And that bothers me – not because I’m necessarily a fan of the Vice President-Elect, but because of what it says about the way we view our political system.

First up: If you feel that way, I’m not trying to change your mind. But if you think a bog standard representative of the Republican party is worse than a man who’s consistently displayed not only racism, bigotry and misogyny, but also a lack of stability in his views and a focus on his own ego, then I’m going to guess that the only political option you think has merit is a government controlled wholly by Democrats, and your ideal would be a scenario where the Democrats are in power forever.

And that’s fine. But we live in a democratic republic, and that means people get to choose their representatives, and we flip back and forth pretty regularly in terms of who’s in charge because this honking big country is made up of a variety of viewpoints. If someone (not me, since I clearly couldn’t choose) could wave a magic wand and say, ‘We’re now a one party country, where Party X will forever be in charge,’ …that would be the end of us.

Trump wasn’t elected by racists. He empowered them, and my fear is that’s not going to be easy to undo, if it’s even possible. And they certainly voted for him. But so did other people – including the nice black man who lives down the street from me and proudly displays his Trump bumper sticker.

No, Trump was elected by people who rejected the Democrats. And yeah, you can argue that point by talking about people who didn’t bother to vote, or people who voted third-party (also a way of saying no to the Democrats); you can point out that Hillary won the popular vote, or half a dozen other things that may have/did/could have influenced the outcome, but the bottom line is that a lot of people didn’t want what the Democrats are selling. (Remember who I voted for, please, before you call me names.)

Like it or not, they didn’t just elect Trump. They put Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress. If that’s not a clear way of saying, ‘we the people want something different,’ I don’t know what is.

Here’s the reality as I see it, and it’s just as true when the Republicans are in charge: the dominant party finds it way too easy to ignore the people who don’t agree with them, to not hear them, and then pretend they’re simply not there.  Echo chambers don’t just exist on Facebook.  People surround themselves with people they agree with, and then pretend no one else is there. (Hello, fandom…)

This is where I hope people are still reading:

If you want a different world, there are two things you can do to make a difference.

First, your rights didn’t stop with voting.  Your representatives in Congress represent you, whether you voted for them or not. Find out who they are. Put their phones numbers on speed dial. Pay attention to what they’re doing, and call them. Tell them what you want them to do or not do. Be polite – there’s no point in being an asshole – and just keep telling them. Politicians exist in echo chambers, too, and they want desperately to keep their jobs.

Yes. It takes longer to call and write your representatives than it does to vent on social media. But the former can actually change things. It often feels to me like people are bitching on Facebook and Twitter because they feel powerless, when their true power is in letting their voices be heard not by their followers but by their representatives.

Second, listen. If you really want to make to a difference, start listening to people you disagree with. Take time to learn their stories, to find out why they feel the way they do. And no, I’m not advocating giving time to racists, nor to being patronizing. People are smarter than that. They’ll know if you’re only pretending to be interested in them in hopes of changing their politics.

I said in my previous post that some who voted for Obama in 2012 voted for Trump in 2016. If you want to swing them back your way for 2018, make sure they feel heard. (Or, you know, if you’re a Republican who wants to make sure they continue to vote for your party, same goes. People will probably be disillusioned pretty quickly by Trump: if you think the Republicans have the answers, don’t just assume that people will vote the same way in 2018 that they did last week.)

Friendship, where people feel respected and heard, changes minds. (And yeah, that can go two ways: listening with an open mind to people who think differently than you can sometimes result in your mind changing, but that’s the risk of tolerance and civility.)

You earn the right to tell someone why you think your party has a solution for them by listening to what they need. It’s a meme, but it’s true: no one has ever changed their opinion because someone on Twitter told them they were stupid.

I’ve seen multiple comments by people insisting that everyone who voted for Trump is obviously a racist. I’m not sure what the point is, really, beyond the cathartic release of expressed rage. Racists aren’t going to change their mind because someone calls them what they are, and non-racists who handed over the whole enchilada to the Republicans…I’m thinking being called a bigot isn’t going to convince them they should give the Democrats another chance in 2018 – but what do I know?

This is true for all of us, regardless of party: The harder it is for us to fathom why someone might have voted the way they did, the more important it is for us – and our party – to try to understand. Because whether or not we’re interested in them, they vote.







7 thoughts on “Further Thoughts on Postponing the Apocalypse

  1. well said. I think after I calmed down (because I was pretty upset) I realized that I’m adaptable, and I’m also annoyed. Right now the house has a republican majority, but that may change with the next representative election cycle. Okay, so it won’t change for Oklahoma, but it may change in other states. It’s not a permanently done deal…people up for re election may not get re elected, especially if people don’t like what happens in the near future.

    However, for me the biggest take away is that this election has exposed the undercurrent of hate that is still rampant in our country. I guess it’s simmered for a long time. Well, now that we know about it, we need to concentrate on standing up to that and fixing it. Maybe if we do that, some of our political problems will take care of themselves.

    • I’ve said to others that while I HATE the active racism we’re seeing, I think good can come from it for just the reason you’re saying here – it’s not like that it’s not been there all along, and however hard change is (particularly that kind) – there’s no hope at all when we’re busy denying it.

  2. I agree with your words thank you for putting these ideas out there and everyone should take them to heart and be respectful and listen to others. We do not have to compromise or let go of our ideals. Well said.

  3. You are so articulate I wish the politicians could be as good. As a British expat here in France who will be affected by Brexit I am wondering what will happen in the French presidential election next summer. I feel that ordinary people are getting very disillusioned with politicians of all colours. Watch this space !

  4. Well reasoned and spoken. Also, you’re a sweeter person than me. Personally I’m disgusted that my country is so inferior to what I thought it was. And, while I expect stupid people to be stupid and racist bigots to be racist bigots and I know we have our share of both, I didn’t realize we had quite so many. Kind of slaps the idea of American exceptionalism in the face since as Clinton said “America is great because America is good.” Well America is not so good right now so I guess America is not so great right now. And trump did not make it not great. He’s just a disgusting conman. The big chunk of people who chose to not be good made American not great. The ones who chose immorality. The ones who put such a purely worthless excuse for a human being in the most powerful seat on Earth. That is the source of my lack of forgiveness for their vote. Nothing to do with conservative/liberal, right/left or Republican/Democrat. My problem is that a vote for trump was a hate crime because it was IMMORAL. Yes politics says welcome them home to the fold–do whatever to get their vote. But common sense says don’t leave anyone that immoral alone with children. Or your wallet. If you vote for someone credibly accused of child rape, then I’m thinking I don’t want to ever, ever have you in my life again. My interest in why you did it remains zero. I’m not evaluating reasons. I’m stating that you cannot vote for someone with trump’s morals without selling out your own. As far as welcoming them home to sanity in political choices, a better approach would be to let them reap what they have sown and stand as examples to what happens to immoral creatures and concentrate instead on the 46%+ of the electorate who did not bother to vote. It would have been nice if they did and I view voting as a responsibility. But frankly if no one cast a vote for the credibly accused child rapist then even if only 1% of the electorate had voted, we’d still have sanity. (just like a woman can pass out on the sidewalk in a short dress with no panties and as long as there isn’t a rapist around she won’t be raped) Whatever a trump voter’s justification for their immorality, I don’t think anyone is going to like the trump administration. Our country is going to look like immoral fools at best internationally–our standing has already been dramatically lowered. Come Jan 19, Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world–not our president. Paul Ryan cannot wait to gut Medicare and Medicaid as well as Obamacare–imagine that reality for our aging populace–what was (pre-trump) a lifelong friend’s in-laws are going to pay dearly and quickly for their votes with rapidly degenerating and rapidly more expensive health care in their declining years. Given trump’s lack of respect for the military it wouldn’t surprise me if my in-laws saw their benefits and retirement cut (they’ll deserve it for voting below their intelligence). At best, the middle class will see more of the same and the 1%ers will save millions on their taxes (how is that not more of the same) and poor people who are more likely to be undocumented or darker skinned or both will be subjected to not only worse economic conditions but racist abuse. Same for women–we become fair game for misogynistic trolls who are empowered by one of their own in the White House. And what happens when you corner a bunch of folks and give them no way out for themselves or their families? Oh I don’t know, maybe something like the recent fender bender incident where a lot of people of color chanted “trump voter” while a white man was beaten and his car stolen. Now the incident itself was traffic initiated but one has to wonder if it would have so quickly escalated or if no one would have intervened a couple of years ago. I know something of how the bystanders felt. While I wouldn’t have chanted at the trump voter, I certainly wouldn’t have placed myself at risk for him. He sowed, let him reap. And I am relatively privileged so the people who stood by have much more reason to be disgusted by that man. But if I’m going to place myself at risk to aid someone under attack, then it’s not going to be for a “deplorable.” I’m much more likely to risk getting hurt to stand up for someone under attack because they are female or black or latino or gay or for any other reason not related to a choice they freely made. Before you say that makes me a bad person, let me just say that it makes me an adherent to my own moral code. I am not obligated to harm myself and my family to save someone from their own stupidity but I am obligated to do what I can to save even a stranger from someone abusing them for no reason. Bullies are despicable. trump is a bully and so are many of his followers (based on the incidents on the rise around the nation). The only way to deal with a bully is to teach them that mice can roar. It can be done. I’ve done it. I try very very hard to make a positive difference in the world. From this post you would probably think that I’ve been horrible to be around since the election. What I’ve been is mostly a recluse. But I have made it a point to smile at people when I’m out, speak less forcefully than normal for me including to my husband, patronize businesses where the folks benefiting from our patronage are more likely to be under fire and less likely to have caused the problem. There will be plenty of bullies to stand up to when they’re being evil excuses for humans and hopefully in the process disrupt their bullying and teach them there is no profit in their behavior. In other words, hold the line for 4 years and hope there is no war, no nuclear war, no worldwide depression and that protests continue and grow but remain peaceful. Large enough continuous protests might just save the spirit of America.

    P.S. While I really hope Ginsberg holds on, I think that it will be a source of unending amusement to me if trump gets his top picks onto the Supreme Court. I will rub that into the face of every 81% evangelical who went against Jesus’ teachings to vote for the least christian president we’ve ever had. On the short list are Peter Thiel the gay Libertarian and trump’s sister who disagreed with the Supreme Court when they ruled against partial-birth abortion. She felt it was Constitutional. Bring ’em on. Pretty sure the obstructionists would beg for Merrick Garland then! Sow. Reap. Maybe learn a lesson that you can teach to your kids so that maybe people will forget what you did by the time your grandkids are voting.

    • Ouch. But, yeah. I’m not in disagreement with much of what you said. I’m just still more focused on figuring out if there’s any hope for us as a nation; if there is, I think it has to include looking beyond our emotional responses, whatever they are. I think what many Democrats are missing is that the despair (rage, anger…) they’re experiencing right now was what many conservatives increasingly felt during the last eight years. I’m not talking about the white supremists, but rather the chunk of the middle class that felt abandoned and betrayed by the Dems, and, yeah, by the conservative Christians who felt threatened. (Note that I’m not interested in going into the whys of those feelings, or whether or not they might be justified, and I’m speaking as someone in the middle – neither fully identifying with liberals or conservatives.) Rather, my focus is on the idea that as long as we swing back and forth between one (or more) group of people feeling marginalized and ignored by their government, to the opposite group feeling that way after the next election, things are going to continue to get worse, particularly for the most vulnerable among us. I’m not advocating for compromise on all fronts, or pretending it’s possible to have a government that satisfies everyone, because it’s obviously not. We’re too different, have too many different cultures. Maybe it’s always been this way and I was too naive to see it, but certainly in the past few administrations, the ‘winners’ haven’t just worked for their group, but have actively worked to ignore the needs of people who voted for their opponent, all the while pretending that they would stay in power for ever – so they don’t have to factor in those other people.
      Meanwhile, another thing I’ve been seeing for a while now is that the whole concept of reality has gone out the window. People decide whether a news report is true or not before they read it/hear it, based not on what it’s saying, but who’s saying it. (Mainstream media, no, unless it’s someone biased for us; Facebook posts…yes, by way too many people.) I suspect that many Trump supporters are going to be shocked by the rape trial. If they saw comments about it at all prior to the election, they dismissed it as a ‘smear campaign by the liberal media’; the fact that it’s an actual case will shock them. (Other Trump supporters are looking forward to it, because what they really wanted was a Republican government, and they’re hoping Trump gets impeached as a result of one or both of these trials – to them, the end (the government they wanted) justified the means (voting for Trump.))
      Similarly, this is why they weren’t bothered by the idea that Russia actually had a much bigger role in their election than any sane person should be comfortable with – they simply chose not to believe any of those reports.
      (I also saw – and still see – liberals doing the same thing, by the way – dismissing any news report that doesn’t fit what they’ve already decided is true.)

      I think the biggest problem the Republicans have at the moment is that there is no consensus or unity among their voters. If some people who voted for Trump were really voting for Pence (assuming that Trump will either be impeached or resign out of boredom (something I personally think is possible)), many, many others voted for Trump because they’re so tired of business as usual in DC – the very thing they’ll get if Trump isn’t there.
      And then there’s what you touched on – personally, I think the only people who voted for him who are going to get what they wanted out of it are the white supremists.
      People who simply wanted something different…they’ll get that for a while, though will probably discover different doesn’t translate to better; people hoping for better jobs for middle class blue collar workers…yeah, probably not. (Which, if they’d actually researched the types of jobs Trump’s created, wouldn’t be as much of a surprise, but there we have that skewed view of reality thing again.) At least some of those who voted for him because the ACA hasn’t been good for them are probably going to be stunned to realize that repealing it doesn’t mean they get back what they had eight years ago, and that, in fact, nothing is worse than something. The conservative Christians who voted for him might get part of what they wanted – I think they’ll probably get a conservative replacement for Scalia (remember, Congress has to approve his appointments, and they’re not going to rubberstamp someone their constituents won’t want.) But those who voted for him because they thought he’d automatically overturn gay marriage and Roe vs Wade…yeah, they’re going to be unhappy. He’s already backed off on gay marriage, and the problem with overturning RvW is that unless he gets lucky and a liberal justice retires or dies, he’s only going to get one replacement and that’s not enough (at least that I can see) to overturn it.
      On the whole, I think the fact that it’s not going to be possible for the Republicans to make everyone who voted for them happy increases the chance that they’ll lose Congress in 2018.
      But…if the Dems who come into power at that point want to actually accomplish anything (and stay in power)…they need, as much as possible, to pay attention to everyone, not just the people they think voted for them.
      For years upon years now, everyone has pretended that denying a view is out there makes it go away. We don’t talk at all about how true change might happen, particularly where things like racism are concerned. Maybe we should start, because the current approach clearly isn’t working.

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